Wins and whines of the year that was
The numbers show 2017 was a bumper year for new truck sales, and while there were certainly more winners than losers, the gap between the high flyers and the hopefuls appears to have grown wider than ever. In this candid assessment, we take a sharp look a
The numbers show 2017 was a bumper year for new truck sales, and while there were certainly more winners than losers, the gap between the high flyers and the hopefuls appears to have grown wider than ever
It wasn’t quite as big as the all-time record of 2007, but it wasn’t far off either, with 36,825 new trucks and heavy vans hitting the Australian market in 2017. Strongest of all was the heavy-duty sector with a touch over 12,000 deliveries, followed by lightduty with 11,628 units, and a comparatively lacklustre medium-duty category notching 7312. But when the numbers are dissected, who was able to make the most of a big year for business and who wasn’t?
Starting at the top, no one will be knocked off their chair by the fact that Isuzu was once again the overall market leader, delivering 8898 trucks across all three categories and, in the process, notching 29 consecutive years at the head of the Australian market. Truly an incredible achievement.
Barring a cataclysmic collapse of the world as we know it, 2018 will not only see Isuzu hit the 30-year milestone but, if Isuzu Australia’s wily operations boss Phil Taylor gets his way, the brand will deliver even more trucks than it did last year. Light and medium-duty sectors are, of course, the domain of the Japanese and, while Isuzu stayed far ahead of main rivals Hino and Fuso, it was in the heavy-duty league where the brand’s six- and eight-wheeler rigids were again extraordinarily successful.
In 2017, Isuzu strengthened its hold on the third rung of the heavy- duty ladder, delivering almost 1400 units for a stake of 11.6 per cent. Not bad for an outfit whose Giga ‘flagship’ continues to lack an effective powertrain and is probably the least popular model in the entire stable.
Still, imagine what Isuzu might achieve with a Giga sporting an efficient engine and automated transmission such as, say, a Cummins X12 and an Eaton Ultrashift-Plus. Sure, it’s way outside the square of corporate probability but, then again, anything’s possible with the right levels of desire and determination.
Anyway, enough of this daydreaming. Obviously enough, the only heavy- duty brands ahead of Isuzu – admittedly, well
“DAF’s move to a local assembly operation is a major coup that arguably holds the greatest opportunities for growth within the Paccar fold”
ahead – were the true big boys of the class, Kenworth and Volvo.
For its part, Kenworth maintained its longestablished perch at the top of the tree, delivering 2355 units for a 19.6 per cent stake of the heavy-duty market. In many ways, though, 2017 may actually go down as something of a watershed year for Kenworth or, rather, its Paccar parent company.
Last year was, after all, the first year for Kenworth’s inspiring new T610 model and, with acceptance accelerating, plus several new developments planned for 2018 and the unrelenting popularity of an existing range led by the resilient K200 cab- over, it’d take a supreme pessimist to predict anything other than another powerful performance in the year ahead.
As for those new developments, a T410 model is almost certain to follow in the footsteps of the T610, while on the other side of the Paccar portfolio, we’ve already revealed that the second half of 2018 will see the start of DAF assembly at Paccar’s Bayswater (Vic) facility.
While the arrival of a T410, punched by Paccar’s MX engine, will be a significant factor in maintaining Kenworth’s brand supremacy, DAF’s move to a local assembly operation is a major coup that arguably holds the greatest opportunities for growth within the Paccar fold.
With early aspirations for a 4 per cent stake of the heavy- duty sector in 2017, DAF delivered 388 units in the heavy- duty class (plus 32 medium- duty models) for a modest 3.2 per cent slice of the category.
Disappointing perhaps, but with Bayswater’s extensive engineering and manufacturing resources able to tailor specifications more suited to Australian conditions, there’s no question DAF will enter an entirely new era later this year, and if all goes to Paccar’s plan, the Dutch truck might finally achieve at least some of its true potential in this country.
Meantime, Volvo may be still losing the battle against Kenworth for individual brand supremacy but, in the corporate stakes, Volvo Group Australia (VGA) is definitely winning the war. Whereas Kenworth and DAF collectively delivered 2743 heavy-duty units for a 22.8 per cent slice of the heavy-duty category in
“More than 5200 of the heavy-duty trucks delivered by Kenworth, Volvo and Mack in Australia last year were also made in Australia. Onya!”
2017, the VGA threesome of Volvo, Mack and UD amassed 3264 units for 27.2 per cent. Big numbers indeed.
Viewed from a more altruistic angle, however, the combined numbers highlight the fact that more than 5200 of the heavy- duty trucks delivered by Kenworth, Volvo and Mack in Australia last year were also made in Australia. Onya!
Anyway, Volvo finished the year with 1845 units for a 15.4 per cent return, while Mack broke through the 1000-unit barrier with a healthy 1026 deliveries to score fourth spot on the ladder with 8.5 per cent of the heavy-duty business. Again, good numbers, but a particularly pleasing result for VGA came from its Japanese partner UD.
Across both heavy and medium-duty markets, UD delivered 917 units, but it was arguably the 3.3 per cent gained from the delivery of 393 heavy-duty trucks that put the broadest smile on some faces. After all, for most of the decade since Volvo took control, UD has struggled to reach 2 per cent of the heavy-duty class, making the 2017 result the best in its Volvo history.
UD is on a determined course to get back to its heavy-duty roots and, with its Condor PD and PW rigid six-wheelers providing much of the platform for the brand’s 2017 performance, confidence is brimming that the new Quon range launched late last year will take the brand to sales figures it has never known before. Time will tell, of course, but having spent plenty of time behind the wheel of UD’s new flagship, it’s easy to share the confidence.
Nor would it surprise if UD actually achieves the greatest growth rate within VGA during 2018. Volvo and Mack will, of course, stay strong, but given that both brands are still waiting on updated cabs – Volvo for its bigger XXL sleeper and Mack for a stand-up cab now under development in the US – it could be that UD will be the only member of the corporate threesome to improve significantly on its 2017 numbers.
“The foundations of Freightliner’s failure in our neck of the woods sit squarely at the feet of its US principals”
Then there’s the other Swede. Scania! A stellar year indeed, breaking through the 1000-truck barrier for the first time and finishing the year just a smidgin behind Mack with 8.4 per cent of the heavy-duty class. A top effort, and much of the credit must go to the clever marketing and product initiatives implemented over an eight-year tenure by recently retired managing director Roger McCarthy.
This year, however, marks a new line in the sand for Scania. There’s not only a new managing director in the form of Swede Mikael Jansson but, at a time when its existing range is on a roll and continues to kick goals, the company has fast-tracked the Australian introduction of its ‘New Truck Generation’ following the positive performance of models in local tests. Consequently, the biggest task for Scania this year is likely to be simply maintaining the momentum with a performance at least equal to 2017.
Other brands to build healthy momentum in 2017 were a pair of Germans. One was MAN, delivering one truck shy of 500 units for a 4.2 per cent stake of the heavy-duty category, and a respectable 6.3 per cent of the medium business on the back of 462 deliveries.
MAN is, of course, part of Roger Penske’s Australian portfolio, and while a good number of the brand’s deliveries in 2017 were military units, there’s no hiding the fact that the German truck is doing much better than Penske’s other star attraction, Western Star. But we’ll get to that shortly.
Obviously enough, the other German is Mercedes-Benz and, in 2017, its new range of trucks did a great job of generating confidence after decades of disappointment with the former Actros family. With 813 deliveries providing 6.8 per cent of the heavy-duty class, way ahead of anything the brand has achieved for many years, Benz boffins would be right to expect even more in 2018. Whether they get it or not remains to be seen, but judging by the feedback from fleets after a number of notable orders through last year, even greater growth is almost certainly on the cards in 2018.
For corporate cohort Freightliner, the story is nowhere near as good. In fact, for a brand with such a substantial model range, Freightliner’s 2017 figures border on tragic with 417 deliveries gathering just 3.5 per cent of the heavy-duty class. Freightliner’s forlorn fortunes over recent years have been the topic of much discussion among industry watchers and competitors alike. Yet while the brand’s local leaders are the logical targets of blame, the foundations of Freightliner’s failure in our neck of the woods sit squarely at the feet of its US principals.
Why? Because with rare exception by rare individuals, Freightliner’s American masters have historically treated right-hand drive as a secondary function, reacting with what can be best described as a dawdling response to product problems and requests for engineering adaptations specific to the Australian market. In the US, of course, Freightliner is number one. The biggest by far, and for that reason alone, it’s perhaps easy to see why Australia’s comparatively small market sits low on the radar.
Whatever, when and if Freightliner chiefs ever consider the reasons for the brand’s poor performance in this part of the world, a look in the mirror might be a good place to start.
Maybe something similar applies to Freightliner’s North American sibling, Western Star, which also recorded a dismal result in 2017 with 3 per cent market share from the delivery of just 363 trucks. Then again, maybe not!
Anyway, whatever the reasons for Western Star’s slide from grace with Australian buyers, it has all occurred since automotive mogul Roger Penske took control. Go figure!
Rubbing salt into the wound perhaps, even corporate sibling Fuso finished ahead of Western Star in the heavy-duty rankings. Admittedly, not by much, with Daimler’s Japanese entity just fractionally ahead with 369 deliveries and a 3.1 per cent stake of the category, but ahead nonetheless. The simple fact is that, without Fuso’s numbers, Daimler’s place in the Australian market could appear to be little more than corporate whimsy.
All up, the Japanese brand put more than 3400 trucks into the market in 2017, finishing second with its seemingly ageless Canter range in the light-duty sector, and third behind Isuzu and Hino in medium-duty. Even so, Fuso’s overall figures were well behind competitive countryman Hino.
Hino, in fact, had a particularly good year with 4820 deliveries, up by more than 400 units on last year’s figures. Some of the gains came from a rejuvenated range of wide-cab 500-series models spanning both the medium and lighter end of the heavy-duty classes where Toyota’s truck specialist achieved 2156 deliveries for 29.5 per cent of the medium sector and 392 units for 3.3 per cent of heavy-duty. Again, however, Hino failed to regain second slot from arch rival Fuso in the light-duty market, finishing just 30 units behind with 2272 deliveries. Still, don’t be surprised if Hino achieves an even better overall result this year. Its new 4x4 model, launched late in 2017, has won high praise from many corners, while a refreshed range of narrow-cab medium-duty models could also join the ranks later this year.
Another brand to span all three categories is Iveco but, like a couple of others, it also logged a largely mediocre performance that failed to take advantage of a booming market. In heavy-duty, for instance, the ageless home-grown ACCO again provided the majority of the 558 units that gave Iveco a modest 4.6 per cent slice of the category, while the brand achieved just 84 medium-duty deliveries for a paltry 1.1 per cent.
In volume terms, Iveco’s biggest contributor was the versatile Daily, which notched 7.3 per cent of the light-duty business with 850 deliveries.
The question on many minds is that, given the consistently modest numbers and the vast real estate of the historic Dandenong (Vic) manufacturing plant, how long will Iveco continue to be a local truck builder? Typically, many have an opinion but none have an answer … at least, not publicly.
Whatever, Iveco is no doubt hoping the long-winded introduction of the International ProStar will provide a welcome boost to its business. For the record, 14 Internationals were delivered in 2017. Furthermore, 49 Cat trucks were delivered and, of course, the Cats are effectively a rebadged, Cat-powered version of the ProStar.
It will certainly be interesting to see what the numbers are at the end of this year.
Above: Freightliner. American apathy has taken its toll Opposite: Slowly, slowly. International ProStar
Right: Hino 500-series. A good result
Opposite: Mack. There’s a new cab coming
Top: Fast-tracked. New Generation Scania
Above: MAN among men. The best of Penske’s performers
Above: Home-grown hero. Kenworth T610 Opposite: Isuzu. Top of the charts, as usual